2018 Federation of International Lacrosse Men's World Championship opens today with Hong Kong playing Luxembourg at 7:30 pm local time from the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel.

"> Five Storylines to Follow at FIL World Championship | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY SCOTT MCCALL

Two-time All-World selection Paul Rabil against Canada during the 2014 FIL Men's World Championship in Denver. Canada and the U.S. have combined to win all 12 world championships held since 1967.

Five Storylines to Follow at FIL World Championship


The 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse Men's World Championship opens today with Hong Kong playing Luxembourg at 7:30 pm local time from the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel.

The game, which will be carried live on ESPN+, is the first of 155 games that will be played over the next 11 days in the largest international lacrosse world championship in history. A record 46 teams will compete this year, up from 38 that participated in the 2014 championship in Denver.

Here are five storylines that will be of interest:

The Battle for Gold

Canada and the United States have combined to win every gold medal since the first international championship in 1967. Those two countries are the favorites again in what has become one of the best rivalries in sports.

The last five world championships have all featured Canada - U.S. finals.

In 1998, Canada mounted a furious comeback, only to fall 15-14 in overtime in Baltimore in one of the greatest games ever played. Ryan Wade earned MVP honors for the tournament and Sal LoCascio made a U.S. record 32 saves in the championship game.

In 2002, a relatively young U.S. squad made up primarily of current and recent college graduates outscored Canada 18-15 in Perth, Australia. Midfielder Doug Shanahan excelled on offense and faceoffs to earn MVP honors.

Playing on home soil in London, Ontario in 2006, Canada won its first championship since 1978 thanks in large measure to a dominating performance by faceoff specialist Geoff Snider. Snider, who earned MVP honors at the event, will be playing for his fourth Canadian national team in 2018.

The U.S. reclaimed gold in 2010 in Manchester, England behind the exploits of two players that will also be on this year's U.S. team.  Midfielder Paul Rabil was the tournament MVP and Ned Crotty scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals in the fourth quarter of Team USA's 12-10 comeback victory.

In 2014, Canada spoiled the hopes of more than 11,000 spectators in a partisan crowd in Denver, beating the U.S. 8-5 behind a masterful performance from goalie Dillon Ward.

Ward, who is on this year's Canadian team, made 10 saves in the championship game and was named the event MVP after finishing with the tournament's second-best save percentage (63.3) and fourth best goals against average (4.45).


The 2018 FIL World Championship features 46 nations and 155 games over 11 days in Israel.


Can Host Israel Medal?

Israel made quite a splash in its first world championship, finishing in seventh place and coming very close to a much better finish.

After dominating in its first five games, Israel led Australia by two goals in the second half in the quarterfinal round before the Aussies came back to win 9-8. A 10-9 overtime loss to England then knocked Israel out of a chance to play for fifth place, but they bounced back to earn seventh place with a 15-10 win over Japan.

Former Dartmouth standout Ari Sussman was the star of that Israel squad, leading the 2014 championships with 42 points (27g, 15a) and the offense will now get the added firepower of Max Seibald. The 2009 Tewaaraton winner out of Cornell played for the U.S. team in 2010 and 2014. Israel also returns defenseman Benjamin Smith, who made the President's Team in 2014 along with Sussman.

Israel will play Jamaica at 4:30 local time on Thursday in a featured game in Netanya Stadium leading into the event's Opening Ceremony.








Scotland Makes Debut in Blue Division

Scotland had a very strong showing in Denver in 2014, ultimately finishing in sixth place to move into the Blue Division for the first time. Scotland took the Iroquois to the wire in the quarterfinals, falling 10-8 in a matchup that was a one-goal game heading into the final quarter.

Scotland placed four players on the 10-man President's team for the top players outside of the Blue Division, and two of those players are back, attackman Jimmy McBride and defenseman Matt MacGrotty. McBride was one of the top scorers in the 2014 championship with 30 points (20g, 10a) in eight games and MacGrotty is a 6-foot-4 defenseman who played in four games this year with National Lacrosse League champion Saskatchewan.

Leading Scotland will be head coach Brian Silcott, an All-American from Nazareth who played both in the MLL and NLL and has coached at the collegiate and professional levels.

Scotland went 6-2 in 2014, and it will be interesting to see how they fare with the tough schedule in the Blue Division. Scotland opens on Friday against Australia.

Puerto Rico Hopes for Strong Debut

Much like Israel enjoyed immediate success in its first world championship event, Puerto Rico is hopefully for a strong debut. A roster made up all most entirely of former or current NCAA players will have former Ohio State standout Ricky Pages, a five-year MLL veteran, as one of the leaders. Two recent third team All-Americans are on the roster — Scott Bieda, a Boston Cannons player who had 193 points in his Rutgers career that wrapped up in 2016; and J.T. Giles-Harris, a rising junior defenseman at Duke that earned All-America status this past season.

Puerto Rico will play Wales on Friday in its first game of the tournament.




PHOTO BY SCOTT MCCALL

Jimmy McBride scored 30 points and was named to the President's Team after helping Scotland finish in sixth place at the 2014 FIL Men's World Championship. Scotland will compete in the Blue Division for the first time this year.


Ventiquattro Gets a New Experience with Philippines

Kirk Ventiquattro is one of the most impactful coaches the sport has ever seen. The architect of the Carthage (N.Y.) High School program that produced the Coffman and Powell brothers, he stepped down this year after 30 seasons leading the Comets to well over 400 victories.

He'll be in Israel coaching the Philipines squad which is competing in the world championship for the first time. His wife's mother was born in the Philippines and the family affair will continue with his son Tony serving on the coaching staff and son Mario playing as an attackman.

The Philipines have a strong anchor in recent Maryland graduate Dan Morris. The goalie helped the Terps win the NCAA title in 2017 and made a combined 371 saves over his final two seasons.

The Philipines open play on Friday against the Czech Republic.